How will the New York Giants’ rookies do during the 2021 NFL season? Prognosticating the statistics of these six draft selections isn’t an exact science with injuries and all the unpredictable variables that materialize through an NFL season, but let’s have some fun and see what each of these draft picks can bring to the Giants as rookies.
Kadarius Toney, WR
In his final season at Florida, Toney had 70 receptions for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing the ball 19 times for 161 yards and a touchdown. He also threw the ball twice, with one completion for 12 yards.
I understand the concerns about Jason Garrett’s potential utilization of a receiving threat like Toney. The lack of creativity in Garrett’s 2020 offense is well documented and I really hope his philosophy of calling three plays to gain 10 yards changes a bit; excuses about the young offensive line, quarterback, and the truncated off-season, have some merit, but, at the end of the day, 2020 was a very uninspiring offense to witness.
Insert Kenny Golladay to be his true “X,” Kyle Rudolph to be his true “Y,” and then Toney to be a versatile piece that can be used creatively, along with a healthy Saquon Barkley, and one would hope that Garrett will be able to optimize his weapons.
Toney’s a more deceptive route runner than he’s given credit for, and he can be effective at all three levels of the field. However, quick “designed” touches to Toney will be an easy way to get the football in his hands which will give him the ability to use his superior change of direction skills, contact balance, and overall agility to make defenders miss. Let’s hope the Giants offense can find ways to implement his skill-set into their game plans.
58 catches on 83 targets, 628 REC yards, 6 REC TDs
18 rushing attempts, 126 RU yards, 1 RU TD
3 passing attempts, 1 completed pass, 14 yards
Azeez Ojulari, EDGE
The Giants were able to assemble a quality defense with Kyler Fackrell, Jabaal Sheard, and David Mayo receiving snaps at the EDGE position. Now, with the addition of Ojulari and Smith, along with the potential returns of Carter and Ximines, the Giants are in a much better position on the EDGE. Ojulari was the EDGE in this draft that seemed to be the perfect fit for Patrick Graham’s defense.
Ojulari is a three-down EDGE player who is physical against the run, especially when taking on pullers. He can drop into space and cover the boundary well in the flat and he’s a capable pass rusher who still has room to grow. He should earn quality snaps here for the Giants, and, if he stays healthy, could possibly lead the team in sacks at the EDGE position.
Ojulari could also have a solid year in the tackles for a loss department; the Giants Tite front spills a lot of runs to the outside - it’s very difficult for teams to command the A & B-Gaps against New York. That’s why an EDGE who can control the point of attack and further spill defenders to secondary force players is important in this system. Ojulari does a solid job with these assignments.
16 games, 14 starts
45 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss
6 sacks, 31 pressures, 2 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles
Aaron Robinson, CB
Adding Robinson to the secondary is a wise move for depth purposes, and for scheme versatility. Robinson, similar to Darnay Holmes, profiles better as a nickel defender, yet he does have some experience on the outside. He’s very fluid in his hips, doesn’t lose any momentum with his transitions, and is a physical football player that isn’t a liability in run support.
The Giants also think Robinson can play the STAR position which is a hybrid linebacker/safety that aligns in the box. This is a role that Jabrill Peppers executes well, but this is the last year of his contract. Robinson’s presence isn’t a direct indicator that Peppers isn’t long for this roster, but it does give the Giants some flexibility if the 2022 cap is too precarious to maneuver next off-season.
I, for one, want Peppers here long-term, but that talking point should be reserved for another article. Nevertheless, Robinson has a unique skill-set that the Giants covet; his coverage is exceptional and he is very tough as a run defender. As I wrote about when discussing Ojulari, the Giants put a priority on secondary force/contain defenders who can come downhill and fit the run physically after the defensive line spills the running back outside - Robinson does that well, and it’s one of the many reasons why the Giants traded up for him in the third round.
17 games, 6 starts
36 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss
1 sack, 4 pressures, 7 PBUs, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble
Elerson Smith, EDGE
The Giants love the Reese’s Senior Bowl event and Smith was a dominant force in Mobile, Ala., after not seeing a football field for more than a year. Smith isn’t a complete player quite yet - he needs to become better against the run and develop speed to power rush ability - yet he’s still very intriguing because of his lateral quickness, short area burst, and ability to use his hands and feet in conjunction with each other.
Smith has lightning quick hands that he flashes, and he does a good job keeping his hand open to grab cloth and cause balance issues against opposing offensive lineman. He’ll be effective in the stunt game with Leonard Williams in passing situations until he can develop his game and become more reliable as a three down player.
19 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss
3.5 sacks, 17 pressures, 1 PBU
Gary Brightwell, RB
The Arizona running back was selected, purportedly, to be a special teams ace for Joe Judge and the Giants. It seems the organization valued his size, 5-11, 220 pounds, his physical nature, and his ability to make tackles on special team units - he had seven career tackles in college.
That doesn’t seem like much, but when one considers the amount of kickoffs that are touchbacks, or punts that are kicked out of bounds, it is impressive. Furthermore, the Giants may think of him as a solid insurance policy at the running back position that can be stashed on the practice squad and called up to the 53 when needed.
Saquon Barkley is battling back from his knee injury and the Giants signed Devontae Booker to be the starter, if Barkley isn’t ready. The singing of Corey Clement and Ryquell Armstead definitely makes the situation a bit more unclear, for I believe one of those two backs will end up making the 53 with Barkley being ingratiated back into the fold.
However, if Brightwell has an excellent camp, maybe he could earn early snaps and Clement, who is a quality and experienced special teams player, can be relegated to only that role. Either way, Brightwell should see the field at some point in 2021.
12 carries, 38 RU yards, 1 touchdown
1 catch on 2 targets, 3 yards
2 special teams tackles
Rodarius Williams, CB
Willams is a longer, high cut, cornerback who is the older brother of Browns’ 2019 second round pick Greedy Williams. This sixth round selection isn’t the most fluid athlete on a horizontal plane, but he has a lot of experience in press man alignments. He shows enough discipline and technique at the line of scrimmage to warrant a late day three selection. With the depth that the Giants currently have in the secondary (barring injury), I believe Williams won’t see many snaps on the defensive side of the football, but will be relegated to special teams work.